Guest column by Irene Monroe: An executive order would repeal "Don't ask, don't tell"
An executive order would repeal “Don’t ask, don’t tell”
By Rev. Irene Monroe
This week Lady Gaga joined Maine’s rally to send a message to the state’s two moderate Republican senators, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, asking them to repeal “Don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT), a critical vote in Congress.
But to no one’s surprise on Tuesday, Senate Republicans quashed it. Democrats needed only 60 votes to overcome a filibuster; the vote, however, was 56 to 43.
The question our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) servicemembers should be asking is whether the vote was a sincere act on the Democrats’ part to repeal DADT.
Or was it merely pressure? Posturing? Or both?
More after the jump.
While I realize that the Obama administration is hoping to avoid the missteps of the Clinton administration when it tried to open military ranks to LGBTQ servicemembers, the Democrats knew they didn’t have the 60 votes needed even if Republican senators, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, voted as Democrats had hoped.
With midterm elections now six weeks away, and with both Republican and Democratic candidates revving up their campaigns, playing to their bases concerns about taxes and the economy, did Democrats really expect or want or even care what the outcome on DADT would be this week?
While this week’s vote is another blow for the LGBTQ community concerning DADT, it makes the Democrats, albeit, in my opinion, disingenuous, look like they care about this issue.
While the LGBTQ community now waits for the Pentagon to complete its study by Dec. 1, reviewing how to maintain the military’s “unit cohesion” while integrating LGBTQ servicemembers, let’s not forget, that as long as DADT is active it gravely impacts recruitment, morale and unit cohesion because it’s okaying the firing of our LGBTQ servicemembers. To date, more than 13,500 LGBTQ servicemembers have been discharged under this discriminatory policy, and the number continues to grow.
“Doesn’t it seem to be that ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ is backwards? …We’re penalizing the wrong soldier. …We gay soldiers, who harbor no hatred, no prejudice, no phobia, we’re sent home? I am here today because I would like to propose a new law; a law that sends home the soldier that has the problem. Our new law is called ‘if you don’t like it, go home,'” Lady Gaga stated at the Maine rally.
Had Lady Gaga’s logic prevailed before the Senate vote our U.S. military today would be less likely to lose another willing and patriotic servicemember because of his or her sexual orientation.
But with attitudes like those of Tony Perkins, president of the Washington, D.C.- based Family Research Council (FRC), a conservative Christian organization promoting “traditional family values,” DADT will continue to be a political pawn for anti-gay Christian conservatives who see this issue of LGBTQ in the military as a religious one and not as a civil rights issue.
“If the Senate fast-tracks the process, it would short-circuit the military’s review of any potential fallout from the change. While the majority of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have made it clear that such an assessment is necessary…part of the rush can be blamed on the November elections. The rest can be pinned on an angry homosexual base, whose groups like GetEQUAL have been filling Senate offices with fliers that say, ‘You’re next! We demand “Don’t ask, don’t tell” be repealed now or you will become a target for non-violent direct action,'” Perkins wrote on FRC’s blog.
However, there are many LGBTQ servicemembers who believe these present anti-gay attitudes will change.
For example, Margarethe Cammermeyer, a lesbian and former chief nurse for the Washington State National Guard, and awardee of the Bronze Star for her service in Vietnam is optimistic about the military. She believes that by 2027, the military will look very different, because sexual tension, sexual misconduct, and the treatment of LGBTQ servicemembers will be resolved. Cammermeyer also believes that “‘the Uniform Code of Military Justice” will be revised to reflect social mores and the reality of human sexuality. The result will be a pragmatic document that will preserve individual privacy, and consensual conduct will be considered a private matter.”
I commend Cammermeyer’s optimism, but 2027 is a long way off. The anti-gay attitudes of Republicans must be squelched, and the political posturing of Democrats supposedly acting on behalf of LGBTQ servicemembers, must be called out.
For many in the LGBTQ community, we are anxious about the repeal of DADT coming to fruition, hoping for the President and his administration to effect real and substantive change on our behalf. And given the political climate now, could Obama have done something sooner to repeal DADT?
I think so.
For example, in 2008, as a campaign promise to LGBTQ voters, Senator Obama empathetically stated he would repeal the discriminatory policy; he campaigned on a full repeal of the law. Soon after Obama’s inauguration in 2009, the LGBTQ community waited anxiously to hear that steps were being made to repeal DADT. But on June 8 of that year when the Supreme Court refused to review the Pentagon policy that prohibits LGBTQ servicemembers to serve openly in the military, Obama’s people added salt to the wounds of our LGBTQ servicemembers by stating in court papers that the ruling on DADT was correct because of the military’s legitimate concern of LGBTQ servicemembers endangering “unit cohesion” — a concept totally debunked by a 2002 study.
Studies have been done over and over, showing that LGBTQ servicemembers do NOT harm “unit cohesion.” Enough is enough! And it’s time for action.
And that action is for President Obama to issue an Executive Order on behalf on LGBTQ servicemembers.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an executive order banning racial discrimination in defense industries and the government
President Harry Truman issued Executive Order No. 9981 to provide full integration of African Americans in the armed services. And the executive order provided for “equality of treatment and opportunity in the armed forces without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin.”
The volleying back and forth on DADT can come to an end simply by Obama using his presidential pen and single-handedly signing an executive order.
That is, of course, if he really wants to.